From data source to data use - where does our data come from?

Published: Wed Oct 18 2017 3:45 PM

Follow Ben on a wee excursion out of the office to go and have a look at a couple of our network stations.

We've recently run stories on our geodetic and strong motion data, but what do the instruments that collect this data look like, and where are they?

Last Tuesday was an early start. One of GeoNet’s expert field technicians (who wishes to remain anonymous – we’ll call them John), joined me at 7am as we boarded a flight to Blenheim. With no wasted time we set off from the tarmac in Blenheim to the top of a fairly typical (STEEP) Marlborough hill on a visit to the first site on our itinerary. We followed a ridge that taught this city-slicker how to use his lungs! At the top I caught a moment to stare out over the stunning vista below, and the equally (if not more) beautiful fence-ringed solar panels characteristic of a GeoNet field network site. While remembering how to breathe I wondered: why didn’t I tag along to one of our urban sites? That would have been a breeze.

Comms boffin Ben taking a breather with the beautiful Wairau Valley in the background

Comms boffin Ben taking a breather with the beautiful Wairau Valley in the background

At this first site we had to do some forensic assessment: something was broken, but what exactly?

You’d have to ask John, he seemed pretty onto it. With some nifty software at hand John had the issue in sight: the site’s communication aerial was on the fritz. Following a close check of all the componentry we replaced the aerial with a flick of the wrist. Easy.

The inside componentry of a tech cabinet, which provides strong motion, weak motion and GPS data back to GeoNet HQ in Wellington.

The inside componentry of a tech cabinet, which provides strong motion, weak motion and GPS data back to GeoNet HQ in Wellington.

If I thought the first hill was a mission, the second site was a real fresh perspective! On a picturesque farm out the back of the Wairau Valley we found ourselves ascending a mud washed rut, surprisingly enough our '4WD' only took us a short way up so we had to walk, again. John bounded up to the top with a spring in his step while I wheezed my way up behind him.

Our '4WD' in action.

Our '4WD' in action.

Since the M7.8 Kaikoura earthquake 11 months ago, our team of field technicians have been working hard to put in place a denser monitoring network throughout the Hurunui and Marlborough Regions, which you can see here. The second site we visited is one of the newest permanent GNSS stations in this region. This site provides GPS measurements back to Wellington which are processed into site positions. The more data this site collects the more we know about how the area is moving, so its operation is invaluable to GeoNet. You can find out more about what GPS data enables GeoNet and other scientists to do here. Did I mention that the view was also fantastic!

The view from the new GPS site.

The view from the new GPS site.

It especially made my day when we had a chat and got a big smile from a chirpy Marlborough farmer as we drove down his farm track to deliver our filthy 4WD back to Blenheim. At GeoNet we are lucky to have the support of landholders to better develop our monitoring network. A big shout out is needed, so cheers for helping to keep GeoNet online!